NYC Marriage Index - Brooklyn 1939
These are images of the handwritten index of marriage affidavits, applications, and licenses for the borough of Brooklyn (Kings county) in New York City for the year 1939. This data was digitized from a set of 110 microfilms that covered the index to New York City marriage records for the years 1930-1972.
These handwritten marriage license index books were originally compiled and then microfilmed by the New York City Clerk's Office. Up until late 2016, a few of the earlier years' indices were available for researchers to use, but only if the researchers were physically on site at the Municipal Archives building in lower Manhattan, while most of the later years were simply not available to researchers at all. The indices were only available in microfilm format, and not online.
In late December 2015, the not-for-profit activist group Reclaim The Records filed a request under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to obtain a copy of the post-1930 NYC marriage index from the New York City Clerk's Office. This FOIL request was a follow-up to an earlier successful request for the 1908-1929 portion of these records, which was directed to the New York City Municipal Archives and their parent agency DORIS, the Department of Records and Information Services. The 1908-1929 portion of the records were uploaded to the Internet Archive in early 2016.
The New York City Clerk's Office refused to turn over the post-1930 files, leading to an "Article 78" FOIL lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York in mid-2016. The suit was settled in favor of Reclaim The Records, and a brand new copy of the 110 microfilms in this set was sent to them in September 2016. More background on the case, including copies of the legal filings, can be found here.
This set of images covers 1930-1972, 1972 being the last year in which these handwritten index books were compiled. Reclaim The Records also won a copy of a text database that the City Clerk's Office had compiled for their in-house use, covering the same index information, but for 1950-1995. That data was uploaded to the Internet Archive in October 2016, and was also shared to the public at NYCMarriageIndex.com.
In January 2017, Reclaim The Records began uploading the newly digitized versions of the 110 microfilms to the Internet Archive, for public use. This is the first time they have ever been available to the general public outside of New York City.
All about New York City marriage records
In the early 20th century there were two different sets of marriage records kept in New York City, and they each had their own index.
The better-known NYC marriage records are the two-page Health Department marriage certificates, which run from the late 19th century through 1937. You can view the images of those certificates on microfilm at the NYC Municipal Archives building in lower Manhattan, or you can order copies of specific certificates from the Archives through a form on their website. Images of those certificates are also freely available to the public on FamilySearch microfilms, and a text transcription of the information in those certificates is also freely searchable on the FamilySearch website, although the actual images are not online.
There are two complementary indices to those Health Department certificates, known as the Brides Index and the Grooms Index. These indices were created on index cards in the late 1930's through the Works Project Administration (WPA). Those index cards of the Brides Index and the Grooms Index were then microfilmed, and you can view the films onsite at the Municipal Archives building in New York, or you can view them on FamilySearch microfilms. In recent years, these indices have been turned into free online searchable databases, transcribed through the hard work of the volunteers in the non-profit Italian Genealogical Group (IGG).
But the information presented here is the index to the other set of marriage records, the ones that are not nearly as well known.
These marriage records were kept by the New York City Clerk's Office, not the Health Department. And they are not the usual two-page certificates. Instead, they are a three-page document set, consisting of (1) the application of the couple wishing to get married, (2) the affidavit from the couple stating that they are legally allowed to get married, and (3) the marriage license granted to the couple so that they could go get married at a date in the near future. Therefore, the dates of the documents listed in this index were sometimes several days or weeks before the marriage, not always the same date that the wedding took place.
The three-page City Clerk's Office document set usually has more information contained in it than the two-page Health Department marriage certificate. For a description of the differences in the information, read this, or read Leslie Corn's article, "City Clerk's Marriage Licenses, New York City, 1908–1937: One of 20th Century Genealogy's Best Primary Sources" from the NYG&B Newsletter (now New York Researcher), Spring 1999.
I found a name, now what?
This record set is only the index to the three-page City Clerk's Office documents. If you find a name of a relative or other person of interest in this index, you can then place an order with either the New York City Municipal Archives or the City Clerk's Office for a copy of the full three-page City Clerk's Office affidavit, application, and license. Please pay attention to the exact wording; this is not the same thing as a marriage certificate. Make sure you understand what you are ordering.
FOR COPIES OF RECORDS FROM 1930 TO 1949:
Copies of the three-page document set for 1930-1949 were finally moved from the New York City Clerk's Office to the New York City Municipal Archives in late October 2016.
Unfortunately, the NYC Municipal Archives does not yet have an online form for ordering these documents. You will have to write them a letter by postal mail to order a copy, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check made out to the New York City Municipal Archives for $15 (US).
In your letter, make sure to list the full name of the bride or groom, the full name of the person's spouse if you know it, the borough, the volume number (if listed in the index), the page number (if listed in the index), the document number, and the date of the document (month, day, and year). Remember that the date of these documents might be a few days or even weeks before the wedding took place. If you already know for sure the exact date of the wedding, and/or where it took place (the borough name), you should include that information in your letter, too.
Mail your letter to:
New York City Municipal Archives
31 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Don't forget to enclose your check and your self-addressed stamped envelope.
Finally, we request that you please add the following line, or something like it, to your letter: "I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data online for free public use."
FOR COPIES OF RECORDS FROM 1950 TO 1966:
Copies of the three-page document set for 1950 to the present are stored at the New York City Clerk's Office, and marriage records that are more than fifty years old -- i.e. prior to 1967 -- are legally open to the public. That means that if you want to order a copy of a record between 1950 and 1966, you can do so from the City Clerk's Office.
Unfortunately, they do not yet have an online form for requesting records and providing payment. Instead, you can print, complete, and mail the PDF form on their website with your payment. You can also visit them in person and drop off your form and payment right at their office, which will likely get you your records much more quickly.
Finally, we request that you please add the following line, or something like it, to the bottom of your form: "I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data online for free public use."
FOR COPIES OF RECORDS FROM 1967 TO THE PRESENT:
Copies of the three-page document set for 1950 to the present are stored at the New York City Clerk's Office, but records that are less than fifty years old -- i.e. from 1967 or later -- are not legally open to the public yet. That means that if you want to order a copy of a marriage record from between 1967 and the present, you can only do so if you are one of the spouses named in the document, or if you are one of their attorneys and have proper permission, or if both spouses are deceased and you can provide copies of both of their death certificates. Contact the City Clerk's Office directly for more details.
This data is in the public domain. There are no usage restrictions or copyrights attached to it. Feel free to use it however you'd like.
Thank you to the New York State Committee on Open Government (COOG) for providing research materials and advice for the initial FOIL request. Thank you to the law firm Rankin and Taylor in New York for taking on our case and pursuing this matter in court. Thank you to the non-profit organization FamilySearch for generously digitizing these 110 microfilms for free on their professional-grade equipment. Thank you to the Internet Archive for providing web hosting and distribution of this data at no cost.
If you have found this information to be useful in your genealogical research, please consider making a donation to the Internet Archive. They are a 501(c)3 non-profit, so your donation would be tax-deductible in the United States.
For more information
For more information on the group Reclaim The Records, please visit our website at https://www.ReclaimTheRecords.org/ and sign up for our free e-mail newsletter. You can also Like Us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs.
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